AUSTRALIA’S big banks are shutting down dozens of accounts linked to bikie gangs.
The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal that the Westpac, NAB and ANZ banks have been closing the accounts of gangs and of their leading members in recent months.
The Victoria Police Echo taskforce, which investigates outlaw bikie gangs, is aware of the banks’ clean-up actions.
The taskforce is believed to be following up on information unearthed by the banks, although the terms of the probe are unknown.
The renewed financial attack on outlaw bikies follows similar moves by the Commonwealth Bank in 2012.
Security was recently bolstered at a Westpac branch in Melbourne’s southeast as a result of potential threats to staff from disgruntled bikies.
A NAB spokesman said: “We are committed to maintaining strong risk- management processes.”
Senior banking sources confirmed that the closure of accounts linked to bikie gangs and their leaders nationwide was accelerated after Christmas.
But the money has not been frozen.
Victoria Police has confirmed it did not provide any names or information to bank officials.
Under money laundering legislation there is an onus on financial institutions to be proactive.
A spokesman for NAB refused to disclose the details.
“But what I can say is that we are committed to maintaining strong risk-management practices and to assessing customers against these,” he said.
A report from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre warns organised crime is estimated to cost Australia up to $15 billion every year as the proceeds of criminal activity are laundered to make it appear as coming from legitimate sources.
All significant cash transactions above $10,000 must be reported to AUSTRAC by banks, solicitors, casinos and the financial services sector.
There are also reporting obligations covering the transfer of money overseas.
The bikie gangs also reportedly take out loans for property transactions as another method to clear their cash as they can pay it back using lump-sum payments.
This latest crackdown on money laundering is among a range of measures against the outlaw gangs’ operations.
Both Crown casino and chief commissioner Ken Lay have been active in banning bikie figures from the gambling venue.
The bans help police reduce money laundering and can extend to racecourses.
Outlaw bikie gangs are considered by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) as a growing organised crime threat.
The most powerful gangs – the Comancheros, Hells Angels, Rebels, Mongols and Bandidos – have dominated the underworld landscape in Victoria since the gangland wars. All have an international presence.
Key illegal activities they are linked to include drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, vehicle rebirthing, prostitution and extortion.
Members are also involved in outwardly legitimated businesses such as transport, finance, private security, nightspots and construction.
There are more than 40 OMCGs in Australia with about 6000 “patched’’ members, 1200 of them in Victoria.